Presenting as part of the Robots and Avatars Collaborative Futures Panel at the Kinetica Art Fair 2010, Professor Noel Sharkey coined the phrase “Robatars”, citing the example of physical military drones operating in war-zones, yet controlled by operators in the Nevada desert. He explained how “virtual Reality is coming into play in a new way, which you could call “Real Virtuality” – you’re looking at VR in a cocoon, where you can smell, touch and so on.”
MIT’s recent MeBot – a semi-autonomous robotic avatar that gives people a richer way to interact remotely with an audience than is allowed with phone and video conferencing, brings this idea from military spheres into the personal domain. The MeBot is designed to be able to convey its users’ gestures, head movements and proxemics and as it does its designers aim to expand the capabilities of mobile and wireless communication. Initial experiments showed that users felt more psychologically involved in the remote interaction particularly because of the basic embodiment that the robot allows.
Check out this video to see the MeBot in action:
Robots and Avatars is a innovative and fascinating project exploring how young people will work and play with new representational forms of themselves and others in virtual and physical life in the next 10-15 years.
It examines multi-identity evolutions of today’s younger generations within the context of a world in which virtual and physical spaces are increasingly blended. A participatory web and events led programme with connected educational activities is taking place across 2010 and onwards, in the UK and internationally.
We will be posting the latest content relating to the many questions and issues that Robots and Avatars programme explores. Looking at wide ranging areas including, education, virtual worlds, robotics, the arts, and health, this site is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in what our work and play spaces of the future will be like and what skills we might need to make the most of them.
Do check back here regularly to keep updated with the going’s on in the world of Robots and Avatars. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed here.
Robots and Avatars held a panel discussion at the Kinetica Art Fair in London on 6th Feburary 2010 which looked at future collaboration with robots and avatars in work and play space.
The panel was made up of some fascinating experts from digital, creative, academica and educational sectors and included Professor Noel Sharkey (University of Sheffield), Ron Edwards (Ambient Performance), Ghislaine Boddington (body>data>space), Peter McOwan (Queen Mary University of London), Anna Hill (Space Synapse) and Michael Takeo Magruder (King’s Visualisation Lab, King’s College London).
Ghislaine Boddington introduced the event by talking about body>data>space’s work and how the Robots and Avatars programme will “look at robots and avatars in the future, and examine how young people will work and play with representative forms in both the virtual and physical worlds.” Peter McOwen revealed details of his work on a European project called LIREC: Living with Robots and Interactive Companions and delved into human relationships with robots. Anna Hill from Space Synapse explored how earth to space collaborations work and emphasises the imporatance on a ‘feminised view of technology’. Michael Takeo Magruder talked about how we relate to avatars and share with us his work at Kings College Visualisation Lab within Second Life. Bringing the virtual into the workplace was the central theme of Ron Edwards’s presentation as he explained about his “enterprise-grade virtual worlds” that bring data into virtual training environments. Robots And Avatars stalwart and project champion Noel Sharkey wrapped up the presentations by talking about his new phrase “Robatars” – suggesting a hybrid between robots and avatars and challenging the ways in which we think of them now.
Click here to see further content from the Collaborative Futures Panel, including Steve Boxer’s full report on the Panel.